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Thread: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

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    Default Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Just for a fun diversion (and yes, there *is* mandolin content), I wanted to call your attention to an article by Lynda Sayce in the latest Lute News (No. 91, October 2009), a publication of The [British] Lute Society. The article is titled "How to spot a fake lute, or Signor Franciolini's shop of horrors".

    Leopoldo Franciolini is infamous today as something of a forger of historic lutes. He was a instrument dealer in Florence from 1890 through 1910... and yes, he was eventually charged with fraud in his own time. For those who don't know his work, Leopoldo is know for pawning off a large number of "questionable" historic archlutes... and many of those fakes still haunt museum curators around the world. To a lute player, these instruments instantly and obviously seem "off"... and most are not generally playable in any real sense. Many would likely self-destruct if brought up to tension.

    Conventional wisdom has held that these lutes contained parts of historic (16th and 17th century) instruments, with Sr. Franciolini's inappropriate decorations and appendages added on. For instance (or so this thinking went) a lute's bowl might be genuine, while the neck extension might be later, and entirely inappropriate and non-functional. Indeed, through time, historic lutes bodies were often legitimately altered to accommodate later musical styles, and the need for more courses. But the lute had pretty much died out by the 1890s... and Sr. Franciolini's frankenstinean creations were apparently put together for one reason.... to separate money from would-be collectors of (presumably) antique instruments.

    Lynda makes an interesting assertion. In her experience, none of the instruments she examined had *any* parts that could be considered truly historic (i.e. dating to the 16th and 17th centuries as claimed by their labels). In other words, the presumably antique instruments were complete fabrications... manufactured to order expressly for Sr. Franciolini's shop, and even seemingly done in production runs to match (presumably unique) instruments that he featured in his catalogs. She posits further (here comes the mandolin content) that since the mandolin was booming in Italy around that time, Sr. Franciolini had no shortage of available luthiers with the skills needed to cobble together a multi-rib body that resembled that of a lute. Lynda even points some similarities in construction between some of these fake lutes, and contemporary mandolins.

    In fact, another article in the same edition of Lute News describes the dissection of one such "fake lute", bearing the label 'Costa Agostino de Brescia Fecit Anno Domini 1622'. Up under the table, written in pencil, is the name Gaetano Giannini, and dated 25th October 1887 'per il negozio di Leopoldo Franciolini' ('for Franciolini's shop') along with an address. Does anyone know of a mandolin builder named Gaetano Giannini?

    Anyway... I thought it was interesting that some of our golden-age mandolin builders may have had a hand in this little scheme that still confuses museums and collectors today. Work is work, after all. Lynda's thesis certainly seems plausible to me. And it is perhaps a little comforting to think that perhaps fewer legitimate historic lutes were harmed in the process.

    Best,

    Eric
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Quote Originally Posted by etbarbaric View Post
    In fact, another article in the same edition of Lute News describes the dissection of one such "fake lute", bearing the label 'Costa Agostino de Brescia Fecit Anno Domini 1622'. Up under the table, written in pencil, is the name Gaetano Giannini, and dated 25th October 1887 'per il negozio di Leopoldo Franciolini' ('for Franciolini's shop') along with an address. Does anyone know of a mandolin builder named Gaetano Giannini?
    No but a quick search turned up a Bass colascione / lute made by this guy: http://www.danteferrara.co.uk/restRake/instruments.php, you can even hear it here: http://www.danteferrara.co.uk/minstr...Colascione.php

    HTH, John.

    PS Interesting stuff BTW

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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the links. And yes, this is the exact instrument that is described in the second Lute News article. At least it is attributed correctly here. According to the article, the "colascione" was procured and "restored" for use in that particular recording. I use quotes above since this is clearly a highly-speculative instrument given its late 19th century manufacture.

    Best,

    Eric

    ps - A quick look around the Web yielded a fair number of "fake lutes" from the Franciolini shop for sale today.... many asking thousands of dollars. Several still claim "17th century Italian lute body" and such. These descriptions may, of course, be accurate, but if Lynda is correct, the possibility exists that the entire affair is a 19th-century fabrication. Caveat emptor!
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

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    Registered User Enzo Puzzovio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Hello, Just spotted this short thread and feel I should add to it. I am the owner of that Franciolini colascione. It is in fact a bass colascione and after 'restoration' it plays beautifully, albeit with an extremely long string length. I am aware of numerous obvious fake lutes from Franciolini's workshop but when I saw this one for sale I felt it was better than the usual inlayed and encrusted efforts. I used it for my album 'Bazimakoo' and was pleased with the result. If someone could advise on how to upload a short track I'd be happy to share it.

    A luthier named Giannini left Italy for Latin America and set up a guitar making business which is still going. I emailed them two years ago to see if there's a link to my Gaetano Giannini but never got a response.Click image for larger version. 

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    Dante Ferrara (real name: Enzo Puzzovio)

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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    wonderful - gianinni instruments are well known but i had never heard of leopoldo franciolini - thanks for resurrecting this thread.

    here's a few instruments credited to him:

    http://www.scholarsresource.com/brow...ist/2142572517
    Last edited by billkilpatrick; May-24-2012 at 4:02pm.

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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    A pleasure to hear from Mr. Puzzovio, who as Dante Ferrara, is well known in the early music plucked string world.

    Linda's article is one of the best, and certainly the funniest, to appear in Lute News in recent years. There are still, by the way, some Franciolini's at Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia, at least according to their current website.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    The Stearns Collection at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has several Franciolini instruments. Stearns, or his agents, were collecting instruments in the late 19th century and S. Franciolini must have thought payday had arrived.

    cheers

    g

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    Registered User Alex Timmerman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo Puzzovio View Post
    Hello, Just spotted this short thread and feel I should add to it. I am the owner of that Franciolini colascione. It is in fact a bass colascione and after 'restoration' it plays beautifully, albeit with an extremely long string length. I am aware of numerous obvious fake lutes from Franciolini's workshop but when I saw this one for sale I felt it was better than the usual inlayed and encrusted efforts. I used it for my album 'Bazimakoo' and was pleased with the result. If someone could advise on how to upload a short track I'd be happy to share it.
    Hello Enzo, as you'll probably know, not all instruments sold by Leopoldo Franciolini are fake or instruments glued together with parts of old historical instruments. And although I haven't had a chance to examine your bass Colascione in real - I have seen several - yours looks quite genuine to me. In fact, its overall design refers more or less exactly to two or three other instruments in the Colascione family that I know.

    I like to congratulate you with it.


    Best greetings,

    Alex.
    Last edited by Alex Timmerman; May-26-2012 at 2:20pm.

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    Registered User Margriet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo Puzzovio View Post
    I am the owner of that Franciolini colascione. It is in fact a bass colascione.I used it for my album 'Bazimakoo' and was pleased with the result. If someone could advise on how to upload a short track I'd be happy to share it.
    Dante Ferrara (real name: Enzo Puzzovio)
    Enzo, you can "reply"on this thread, click on an icon hat says "insert video" and then you can upload your youtubevideo. Actually your video appeared earlier, by Victor Kioulaphides, in the thread http://http://www.mandolincafe.com/f...ght=colascione, at 31-10-2010.

    thanks for sharing!

    Margriet

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    Registered User Margriet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Margriet View Post
    Actually your video appeared earlier, by Victor Kioulaphides, in the thread http://http://www.mandolincafe.com/f...ght=colascione, at 31-10-2010.
    Margriet
    Sorry, I see that the link does not work. That is something i should learn linking to other threads. I will try it by copy- paste.
    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...ght=colascione

    Margriet

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    Registered User Enzo Puzzovio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Thanks Margriet but that video was not what I had in mind. I'm only playing the three open strings on that track.

    I have one using the bass colascione on a ground bass with English guitar and Milanese mandolin duetting over the top. It should fulfil the thread's criterion - w/mandolin content!

    I may have managed to upload it successfully. Enjoy!
    Attached Files Attached Files

  12. #12

    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    nicely played, enzo - complimenti!

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    Registered User Margriet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopoldo Franciolini's fake lutes (w/ mandolin content!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo Puzzovio View Post
    I have one using the bass colascione on a ground bass with English guitar and Milanese mandolin duetting over the top.
    Enjoy!
    Lovely ! Thanks for sharing !
    Margriet

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